'Blind spot': Report confirms Fresno State president bungled sexual harassment claims


Fresno State and its former president mishandled a spate of sexual harassment complaints against a senior administrator, according to an outside law firm’s examination of the matter that was released Thursday by California State University officials.

The firm’s report found then-Fresno State president Joseph Castro failed to take more rigorous action to address repeated reports of misconduct by Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Lamas over a six-year period. Castro’s “blind spot” for Lamas, the report found, negatively impacted his response to the conduct and the morale of students and employees at the school.

“The President’s failure to more aggressively respond to reports of Lamas’ alleged misconduct also allowed such conduct to continue because there were no serious repercussions for it,” the report said. “In summary, more should have been done.”

Castro left Fresno State in late 2020 to become the chancellor of the CSU system, a coalition of 23 state universities that includes Fresno State. But he resigned just one year into his new job after a USA TODAY investigation detailed his mishandling of numerous complaints about Lamas. The Thursday report, by attorney Mary Lee Wegner, confirmed much of USA TODAY’s reporting.

Joseph Castro, who resigned as chancellor of the California State University on Feb. 17 after a USA TODAY investigation, said stepping down "is necessary so that the CSU can maintain its focus squarely on its educational mission."

USA TODAY’s investigation found that Castro personally received at least seven complaints about Lamas, including that he stared at women’s breasts, touched women inappropriately, made sexist remarks, and berated, belittled, and retaliated against employees. But Castro never formally disciplined Lamas, instead praising him in annual performance reviews and endorsing him for a prestigious lifetime achievement award, which Lamas won.

Although a 2020 internal investigation found Lamas responsible for sexually harassing a subordinate and engaging in abusive workplace behavior, the settlement Castro authorized enabled Lamas to leave the university with $260,000 and a clean record in exchange for his retirement. It banned Lamas from working at the CSU again but promised him a letter of recommendation from Castro to help him find work elsewhere. 


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